Breakdowns Worsen Multiple Failures in Cuba’s Water Supply

Cuban authorities acknowledge that the lack of water is serious throughout the island. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 May 2021 — With the increase in breakdowns in recent days, water supply problems have worsened throughout the country and the explanations given this Thursday on the Roundtable TV program have not helped to reassure Cubans. The focus was clear: the drought is serious, the phenomenon worsens with climate change, and the Government is taking measures to combat it on three fronts. One is the environmental one, with the Tarea Vida (Life Task) program, another the infrastructure one, with a hydraulic development plan, and last the police response, to sanction large consumers.

To see the results of the measures to protect the environment, it will be necessary to wait decades and count on the international community, but the hydraulic development plan, after years of operation, does not seem to be yielding too much fruit. Today it is enough to open the provincial press to find that the Government is still unable to bring a standardized water supply to homes.

Havana’s problems are well known. Last week, residents of the the Canal (Cerro) and La Vibora (Diez de Octubre) neighborhood learned that their water supply would now arrive every third day, instead of every second day. The reasons given are the usual ones: “the intense drought,” “the very depressed water levels,” “lack of water and low pressures”…

Just a week later, this Thursday, there was an electrical failure that damaged the Cuenca Sur source, harming the municipalities served by those water channels: Plaza de la Revolución, Centro Habana, Cerro, Diez de Octubre and Old Havana, as well as the Miraflores and Altahabana districts, in Boyeros. La Víbora suffered double damage: that was one of the three days that it was its turn to receive water.

The Provincial Council announced there was no water. The breakdown has caused the mobilization of more tanker trucks to the affected areas, and those that have been affected would see “their delivery cycles lengthened.”

It could be worse, according to the authorities, who said last night on the Roundtable program that losses from leaks have been reduced from 58% in 2011 to 42% today. “If we did not lose so much water, we would not have to look for new sources. Today we have more than 5,000 leaks, of which 2,000 are in Havana,” they affirmed. To solve it, 3 billion pesos in investments and 2 billion in maintenance are planned.

Beyond the capital, in Sancti Spíritus they have also offered explanations for the “irregular behavior” of the water supply.

“The fundamental problems of the water supply in the city of Sancti Spíritus today are related to continuous failures that we have had in the supply system to the city, especially in the pumping station known as Manaquitas, which is the one that sends the water to the Macaguabo water treatment plant,” Franklin Lantigua, director of the Provincial Aqueduct Company, told the Escambray newspaper.

From there, he detailed the amount of work carried out to solve the breakdowns in the pumping equipment and the suppression of leaks, an annual speech that is usually accompanied by phrases such as: “The city of Espirituana has been growing and augmenting the domestic and socioeconomic consumption of water during the last decades, despite maintaining the same hydraulic infrastructure for 40 years, a reality that deteriorates the service in some areas.”

Despite the great national plans, the entire sanitation network of the Island is almost half a century old and the patches are not working to solve the constant problems that citizens find in turning on a tap and having the water flow. The outlook is bleak in the midst of a pandemic and scientists have concluded that the transmission of the coronavirus is especially high by droplets or aerosols, and hand washing remains one of the essential weapons to combat any epidemic.

This Thursday, the Venceremos newspaper also offered reasons why there is less water in Guantánamo. The level of the reservoirs has dropped, but there are also pressure problems due to poor infrastructure and the higher elevation municipalities suffer.

“One of the alternatives is the installation of the missing connections of the Bano Sur conductor, an investment in the approval process by the Institute of Hydraulic Resources that, if implemented, could improve distribution in the towns of María and Esperanza, and the Primero de Mayo and Pastorita neighborhoods, “said the deputy director of the Municipal Company of Aqueducts and Sewers.

Not a month ago in Santiago de Cuba, residents complained about breaks in the main pipeline that supplies various neighborhoods, which  the official newspaper Sierra Maestra had spoken about about as early as 2020, still cannot be fixed .

In Villa Clara it is only necessary to go back to the month of February to see another case of residents alarmed by the lack of the most basic of services provided by a Government. “The representatives of the entities involved explained that there are currently problems with a pump in the Minerva-Ochoíta system, which is in the process of being repaired at the Mechanical Plant factory. As long as this situation persists, it will be difficult to meet with the supply cycles in some popular councils,” according to the local news mediaVanguardia.

In the midst of all these breaks, last night the participants at the Roundtable did not hesitate to look for the usual culprit: “the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America.”

“An example of this is the siege of suppliers, the requirement that the resources we import have no more than 10% American components or the inability of shipping companies to transfer resources to our country. Raw materials that we could acquire in the region have to be sought in Europe or Asia, with an increase in costs between 30% and 40% of the original value,” they pointed out.

Despite this, the official press highlights the “good news.” In Victoria, it was celebrated that, on the occasion of World Water Day, on March 22, in Isla de la Juventud more than 98% of the population had a quality water supply that was accessible to all.

In Camagüey, the local newspaper Adelante reported the imminent completion of new infrastructure and did so by recalling a time when Luis Palacios Hidalgo, a local engineer, asked to speak during a meeting on water supply. He raised a transparent bottle of water from the local shopping center and assured that “when the inhabitants served by the aqueduct received a similar liquid, the results of so many efforts of many generations would be recognized.”

“And although even for him that proposal seemed a total utopia, an impossible dream, today the implausible sentence is closer and closer to reality,” the newspaper concluded. It does not seem to matter that the events throughout the island deny the optimism of the official media and even demonstrate the opposite.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.